Brothers Jaime Augusto and Fernando Zobel de Ayala were the keynote speakers at the fourth annual summit of the Shareholders’ Association of the Philippines (SharePHIL) last August 31, 2017. The two bosses behind Ayala Corp., one of the country’s biggest diversified conglomerates with major interests in property, banking and telecommunications, shared insights on how they grew the company as a family and how they’ve developed a culture of corporate governance that is one of the best not only in the Philippines but in Asia.
During the summit’s Q&A segment, the brothers received a question that has been addressed to many people with their influence: If they became the country’s president, what would they do to get their “dream Philippines”?
While Fernando qualified their response by saying that businessmen don’t always make the best politicians—much to the amusement of the summit’s audience—here are the five things the Zobel de Ayala brothers discussed in musing about the hypothetical presidency.
1. Strengthen trust in government
Jaime Augusto first tackled the question by focusing on improvements that can be made within the Philippine government institution. The elder brother pointed out how the government should build trust and in turn be strengthened, which Jaime Augusto said was “the most vital one” of the things he would do as president.
“You have to build trust in the institution,” said Jaime Augusto. “We have modeled our government under a tripartite system. I think that can be very effective, but it’s important that those are trusted and strong institutions.”
2. Improve the rule of law
The elder Zobel de Ayala’s second point was to improve the rule of law. He mentioned how this was simply a fundamental part of creating a functional and productive society.
“I think it is very hard for any of us to work in a society without being able to count on the rule of law as a basic principle for us to get anything done,” said Jaime Augusto.
3. Develop the educational system
While Jaime Augusto said that there were many industries that should be focused on, he singled out education as one that should be prioritized. He mentioned how the country’s educational system should be made robust and progressive to make Filipino students ready for the future.
“It is hard to build value for a country without overweighting the quality, standards and progressive nature of our educational base,” he said. “It should be made progressive in order for us to survive a world that’s rapidly changing.”
Earlier in the Q&A, the Zobels also talked about how one of the company’s newest ventures is in education. Ayala Corp. currently runs a chain of private schools, the APEC Schools, and it also bought a controlling stake in the University of Nueva Caceres in Naga City.
4. Build a consensus towards a long-term vision
Shifting the focus back to the government, Fernando stressed the importance of having a long-term vision with the projects that they roll out. He pointed out how many have the tendency to look at political cycles within the six-year period given to the President, which should not be the case.
“We really need to think way beyond single political cycles,” said Fernando. “We need to make sure that one administration moves seamlessly to the next one so that there’s continuity in the projects.”
5. Make growth more inclusive
Finally, Fernando focused on the Philippines’ economic growth. While it remains as one of the fastest-growing countries in the region, the younger brother highlighted how the government should make that growth more impactful to more Filipinos.
“Clearly, there’s a lot of impatience, and for good reason, that it (economic growth) is not trickling down far enough,” said Fernando. He pointed out how economists have said that it would take between 10 and 15 years of 6-to-8-percent GDP growth to “really make any kind of a difference.”
“Unless those engines are crafted correctly for that growth, we’ll never see the difference in terms of inclusive growth,” he added.
Of course, the No. 1 in their to-do list assuming any of them really became Philippine president is to divest their billions of dollars worth of holdings in the vast Ayala business empire. Among others, that makes a run for the presidency a very costly proposition for the two siblings.
Lorenzo Kyle Subido is a staff writer of Entrepreneur PH